Dancing Our Way to Wellness: Go Girls!

February 12, 2020 by

By Dr. Christine Burt Solorzano, Pediatric Endocrinologist 

Dr. Christine Burt Solorzano

Q: What is Go Girls!?
Go Girls! is a dance fitness support group that I created in 2014 to encourage girls to exercise in collaboration with Susan Cluett and Anna King of the Children’s Fitness Clinic. We do Zumba or other dance together, then have a discussion about a health or wellness topic. It’s meant to be a super-fun physical activity in a non-threatening, non-competitive atmosphere, which includes family members and is cost-free.

Q: What makes Go Girls! stand out? Why did you choose to get involved?
In endocrinology clinic, I would see girls with polycystic ovary syndrome, diabetes, or obesity every 4 – 6 months and attempt to motivate them to do more physical activity. Seeing them this infrequently made it impossible to help them break down the barriers to healthy lifestyles! (Also, the teens didn’t really respond well to one-on-one motivational interviewing.)

Over time, I became aware that I was a hypocrite—I wasn’t getting the prescribed amounts of exercise myself. Once I began going to the gym, I discovered Zumba fitness and bought some DVDs (with Hoos Well money!) to work out at home. Since dance exercise got me up early to exercise, I became a Zumba instructor to lead a group for my patients. My goal was to provide medical care without medication or lectures—I would lead the dance, others would lead the wellness discussion, and I would listen.

Q: What do you feel is the most exciting part of your work with Go Girls!?
I am so inspired by the girls that I dance with during Go Girls! I watch them take risks as they begin moving in the group and speaking up for the first time during discussions. Eventually, they have told me stories of how fun Homecoming dance was—which moves they used. They begin to cheer on and support other girls. They bring friends who need a supportive environment. They join sports teams and achieve health goals. I am grateful that the group allows me to provide health care in such a meaningful way, beyond drawing labs and writing prescriptions.

Q: Since starting the program, what is your favorite moment/memory?
A: One time, three teens came to class wrapped in plastic wrap! They were going to make the most of their time exercising by sweating as much as possible. (I do not condone this.) They had so much spunk—they seriously enjoyed dancing and offered to teach their own dance routine! The openness they brought to discussions about health goals and barriers was inspirational.

Q: What have you learned that you’d want to share with others in the department?
We’ve discovered that boys also love to dance! We created a version of the program called Go Guys and Girls! which we run during after-school and summer care programs. It is very popular with students and teachers—it often draws 50+ participants!

Q. What are the next steps for you?
A: Go Girls! is going to college! We’re creating a group for young women attending UVA, who need a safe space to exercise outside of the “meat market” university gyms. UVA Student Health is partnering with us to provide a support group, with discussions pertinent to the diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome, eating healthy away from home, handling stress, and other important topics for this population. (We’re working hard to make sure our music and moves are seriously cool!)

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A surgical colleague recently reached out to me about starting an outdoor exercise program for boys. This is so exciting. I would encourage any faculty or staff member to use their passions and talents to make life better for children in our communities! You get back even more than you give.

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